When You Are Really In It...and When You Are Out of It

Scott Halleran

When does early season success turn into real success?

Once again, the Royals have fallen below the .500 mark before Memorial Day and so, to a tired fan base, they seem very much on their way out of contention. Are the truly 'out of it'? Or is May 20th just too early to tell...even for a team that scored five runs in three games, then scores five runs in one game, but still loses by one.

Last season, eight teams finished over .500. New York, Baltimore, Tampa, Chicago and Texas were all over the even mark on May 1st, June 1st, July 1st and August 1st. Detroit was over .500 on May 1st, but did not get back there on the first of a month until August. Anaheim was not over .500 on May 1st, but was on the 1st of June, July and August, while Oakland did not have more wins than losses on the first of a month until August. Frankly, not a big surprise that teams that finish with winning records often start winning early and keep winning throughout the year.

Only two teams were over .500 on May 1st (Cleveland and Toronto) and did not finish over that mark at season's end. Both those teams were still over .500 on both June and July 1st, but had fallen below that level by August 1st. Boston, was not over .500 on May 1st, but was on June, July AND August 1st.

In 2011, six teams finished over .500. Four of them were there by May 1st, five of them on June 1st and all six were there to stay by July 1st. Only Cleveland and Kansas City were over .500 on May 1st and did not end up there at the end. The Royals, obviously, were out of the hunt by June 1st, but the Indians were over .500 all the way through August 1st and beyond. Toronto was not over .500 on the first of any month, until August 1st, but did not manage to stay there even that late in the year.

Going back to 2010, seven teams finished with 82 or more wins. All seven were over .500 on August 1st, but only three were there on May 1st. Six, but not the same six, were over .500 on June 1st and July 1st. Detroit and Oakland were both over .500 on the first of May and June, but were gone by July 1. The Angels got there on July 1st, stayed there through August, but were not winners at the end.

One more year, 2009. Eight teams were over .500 and this is the only time in the last four years when one of those winning teams was not over .500 on August 1st (The Twins - who were right at .500 then). All eight were over .500 on July 1st. Chicago and Toronto were also over .500 on July 1st, but could not finish there.

Only half of the winning eight were over .500 on May 1st, while three that would not finish with winning records (your KC Royals, Chicago and Toronto) were on the plus side on that date. Chicago would actually be over .500 on August 1st as well, before falling out of it.

I did not go past August 1st because the ability to change a team's make-up after that date (actually a day before August 1st) is substantially reduced at that point. We already knew that May 1st was a false hope date, but even then, the majority of the winning teams are winning and a vast majority of the losing teams are already losing. By June 1st the is a touch more separation. By July 1st, only seven teams in the last four years have been over .500 by then and not managed to finish with a winning season and the number is reduced to only five teams by August 1st.

To look at it one more way, only six teams that finished with better than .500 records in the last four years were not already sporting winning records by June 1st.

When is your team for real? July 1st seems like a reasonable time to start believing, but odds are you better be there by June 1st as well. Will the Royals make that mark and, if they do, will it matter or just prolong the inevitable?

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